Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?
Would Jesus cast a Democrat or Republican ballot?
This question’s absurd, of course, when posed in Jesus’ historical context.
He didn’t live in a republic. Neither he nor his peers voted. Caesar cast the only vote – for himself. In this autocratic kingdom, no one considered registering to vote. Those denied ballots believed Olympian gods cast votes for their favorite ruler, Caesar.
Centuries after Jesus lived, the mascots of the Democrat and Republican parties – the donkey and the elephant – first appeared in the press. Nineteenth century cartoonist Thomas Nast and other political satirists lampooned Democrats and Republicans after the Civil War. Nast pictured bloated political hacks who fell off either a donkey or an elephant, pushed out of balance by the weight of their gaffes.
A contemporary comedian tells us Jesus was a Democrat because he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Another jester believes Jesus is a die-hard Republican. He constantly churned up trouble, identifying the elephant in the Roman Empire’s room.
Jesus said his kingdom was eternal, in contrast to Caesar’s domain. Rome crucified him to squash this elephantine truth.
Jesus had a political preference. The Bible shows he sided with those who built communities that accepted the lost, the foot-loose and those pushed to society’s margins.
With whom did Jesus spend time? He gave his calling card to those whom the world passes by. “Come, you that are blessed by my Father (God),” Jesus says. “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:34-36).
Jesus isn’t found among those who puff egos, pat themselves on the back for being self-made and take exclusive credit for their achievements.
Gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin epitomizes how to handle fame with Jesus’ humility. She’s got a wingspan greater than an eagle and a thrust in the water stronger than a locomotive. Her bubbly personality arches over a crowd like the five Olympic rings hanging from Tower Bridge spanning the Thames River.
Blessed with a physique fit for swimming, Missy has a decided edge. This 17-year-old phenomenon has grown into a 6-foot, 1-inch frame with a 76-inch arm span. Her long arms and size 13 feet act like paddles. Churning water, they exert a mighty downward pressure that elevates her body as it skims across water. She virtually hydroplanes the water’s surface.
Swimming competitors, using shorter arms and smaller feet, dig deeper into the water. They must shove aside more of it, so to speak, which cuts down on their glide.
Missy, “the Missile,” flashes a smile that personifies her dedication to community, which helped make her into a gold-medal winner. She attends Denver’s Regis Jesuit High School, where she learned God had given her unusual physical attributes. A longtime swim coach is a key to her success and motivation. Missy’s family continues to be her center. Her sense of community is as foundational as those sturdy towers holding up the bridge under which the Olympic logo hangs.
The “self-made person” is an American myth that the Bible teaches is false. Miroslav Volf, evangelical theology professor at Yale Divinity School, in his book “A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good,” refutes the popular myth of American individualism.
“We are communal beings,” he writes. “We live from community, and even the most ‘self-made’ individual has been influenced significantly by others; he has had a mother and a father, he has had a teacher, he had had a culture with its practices, institutions, traditions.”
Many Olympic athletes put into practice this communal ethic.
In the July 27 editorial on capitalism in The Wall Street Journal, business expert John Bussey pinpoints the distinctive Democrat and Republican political outlooks. “Obama’s message – ‘Will fight for balance and fairness and encourage the investments needed to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class’ – got 80 percent (of voters) saying ‘more likely.’ Mr. Romney’s message – ‘Wants to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity and small government’ – got 68 percent.”
It appears most Americans side with those community convictions which convince us that it takes a village to mold an Olympic athlete and care for those who will never win a gold medal.
The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth (www.theliving
history.com), which enhances Christian worship through dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.
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